URBANA – The University of Illinois received a record number of applications this year, and officials will be making fewer initial offers of admission. That means getting into the UI will be more competitive for next fall's freshmen.
The amount of applications increased by 14 percent this year, to about 22,300, said Stacey Kostell, director of undergraduate admissions.
The UI plans to enroll about the same number of freshmen this fall as last year – between 7,100 and 7,200. But it ended up with 400 more students than expected last fall – 7,584, making it the largest freshmen class ever – because more students than usual decided to enroll.
This year, "we're needing to be a little more cautious because we're not sure of the number of students who will accept our offer of admission," Kostell said.
So the UI is expanding its wait list to 1,100 students. Those with offers of admission don't have to decide whether or not to enroll until May 1, so any wait-listed students won't know until after that date whether they'll be able to come to the UI.
"It's more competitive, but the level of competition for admission really varies by college and by program," Kostell said.
For example, the College of Business had a 22 percent increase in applications, "and they took in more freshmen than they expected (this year), so they needed to cut back as far as how many students they could admit," Kostell said.
While it may be harder to get in the UI because of the number of applicants, criteria by which admissions officials evaluate applications haven't changed.
"We're using the same process as last year," Kostell said. "We've never had a stated minimum test score or a stated minimum class rank. We look at everything an applicant brings, and that hasn't changed."
Two factors contributing to the increase of applications may have been changes in the essay questions on the application and recruiting.
Last year, the UI saw a dip in the number of applications, receiving just under 19,000. It traditionally gets between 21,000 and 22,000, Kostell said.
One of the reasons may have been the addition of essay questions, one requiring an 800-word response and the other a 500-word response.
"It's a lot of reading and probably also didn't get the true answers we were really looking for that helps show what is special and unique about a particular applicant," Kostell said. "This year we did some work on the application and came up with two short essay questions, 300 words or less, which seem to be working."
The UI also had a greater presence in high schools around the state, holding informational meetings for parents and students, and it increased the opportunities for prospective students to visit the campus.
Admission to the UI might not get any easier for future applicants though. The UI's strategic plan calls for reducing the freshmen class size to about 6,500, and for increasing the number of freshmen who graduated in the top 10 percent of their class, and increasing the number of minority and international students.
UI President B. Joseph White said recently the university will also try to increase the number of out-of-state students somewhat over the next several years.